Mrs Avalon Knott, Clinical Trials Manager

Pursuing patient-centric and modern vulvar cancer treatment

Avalon Knott is quick to point out that she’s not a researcher. However, her role as a Clinical Trials Manager for three clinical trials in vulvar cancer makes her a vital part of the team at the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer (QCGC) Research, Cherish’s major research partner.

“I’m focused on ensuring our medical research runs smoothly and responsibly. Whether I’m drafting protocols or selecting research sites, every decision is made with ethical principles in mind and thorough planning,” Avalon said.

Avalon works closely with regulatory authorities and ethics committees to maintain high standards of patient care and data integrity.

“It’s a demanding job but knowing that we’re contributing to meaningful advancements in healthcare keeps me motivated.”

After graduating from the Queensland University of Technology, Avalon started as a registered nurse in oncology. Over the past 10 years, she has transitioned into oncology research and is a force for change.

“I’m passionate about enhancing collaboration in oncology. By actively involving patients in the research process and ensuring their perspectives are integral to its design, I believe we can foster innovation and significantly impact cancer care,” Avalon said.

“My vision involves working closely with researchers and patients to co-create patient-centric studies focused on solutions that improve health outcomes.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is gaining insight into human nature. Despite the perception of self-interest in the world, I consistently witness something heartening. When I approach individuals about participating in a clinical trial, they are often willing, even when they understand it may not directly benefit them. Witnessing this altruism first-hand is a true privilege.

“With my background, I can turn complex research into something tangible for patients and their families and help to forge the connection between researchers and patients.”

Avalon and her adorable daughter

In 2023, returning to work after maternity leave, Avalon secured a part-time role with QCGC Research. She now devotes her time to managing the team’s vulvar cancer projects and is passionate about seeing them through to the end.

“While vulvar cancer is a rare cancer, approximately 400 Australian women are diagnosed with it every year, and its treatment is debilitating for many women. Yet vulvar cancer research is is under-funded,” Avalon said.

“Lymph node surgery is part of the standard treatment for women diagnosed with vulvar cancer, and it can significantly affect their quality of life. Surgery is invasive and often results in compromised function, infection and lymphoedema.

“Unfortunately, the evidence does not yet exist to offer women an alternative treatment pathway. With this research, we aim to change this.

“As vulvar cancer is a rare cancer, at this stage, our study will include a small sample of women from multiple jurisdictions. The aim is to determine the feasibility of using high-resolution groin ultrasound to assess groin lymph node involvement in vulvar cancer patients.

“Pre-ANVU is just the start. We will continue to build on this project in the years ahead.”

About Pre-ANVU

Pre-ANVU is a new vulvar cancer research study led by QCGC Research. Its official title is Vulvar Cancer Feasibility Study: Establishing a novel pathway to best-practice treatment in vulvar cancer.

Pre-ANVU is a small study that will review the safety and feasibility of using high-resolution groin ultrasound to check the lymph nodes for cancer of 50 women diagnosed with vulvar cancer at sites in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. The team also plans to expand the trial to sites in South Australia and Western Australia and overseas in Europe and South America.

Pre-ANUV will provide the preliminary data for a larger clinical trial (ANVU) and demonstrate the feasibility of running this as an international randomised controlled trial. Read more

About NODE

The NODE (groiN ultrasOunD cancEr) study will run concurrently with Pre-ANVU. NODE will verify the feasibility of randomisation in 20 women with vulvar cancer into either groin ultrasound or groin node dissection at sites in Queensland. This study will road-test operating procedures and patient information.

How Cherish supports this research  

Cherish provided a $200,000 grant to QCGC Research to support Pre-ANVU.

“Cherish’s charitable support enabled us to launch Pre-ANVU and supports its implementation. It means we can expand the trial nationally and financially support regional and remote sites to collaborate on innovative research that might otherwise be limited to city centres,” Avalon said.

How you can support this research

To support vulvar cancer research, please donate today. Through generous community donations, Cherish can continue to fund projects like Pre-ANVU that lead to large clinical trials and, ultimately, better outcomes for women with gynaecological cancer.